I have been seeing a lot of conversations in the ethical jewelry space around the term “conflict-free”. When I first set out on this journey 4 years ago conflict-free seemed like a positive cause that I should get behind. From the name and the clever marketing behind it conflict-free as far as I knew was all good and I didn’t need to research it further. Then I started seeing some jewelers call out the Kimberly Process and the conflict-free initiative as total BS and I went “UH OH” I better learn more about it. “Boycott the Conflict-Free Diamond” by Reflective Jewelry pretty much breaks it down and was the inspiration for this post. Sharan Z Jewelry also recently posted an article I highly recommend called “Conflict-Free - Does it Mean What you Think It Means? Great Question” for some further reading as well.
Diamonds are such a hard stone to source ethically, but it is not impossible, here at Valley Rose we focus on sourcing through trusted Artisanal Small-scale Mines (ASM), and if we cant get that we source Canadian, Recycled and now Lab grown diamonds.
The term conflict-free was actually created as a marketing tactic of the very diamond corporations that were committing atrocities like aiding genocides and destroying ecosystems. The very narrow definition of a “conflict-free” diamond claims to guarantee that the diamonds you purchase do not fund civil wars or come from conflict areas, and not really much else.
The Kimberly Process Certification Scheme was the other piece of the conflict-free marketing package, peddled as a reliable certification that aims to ensure that “conflict-free” diamonds don’t enter the market. A few of the many issues with the Kimberley Process is that it is very easy to forge by those committing the atrocities and also it is 100% not traceable (this is a huge red flag). Just about every diamond you can purchase today now makes the claim that it is “conflict-free” because of the Kimberly Process.
The now feel good term “conflict-free” probably conjures up images of miners being paid fairly and having a safe and equitable work environment. That sentiment is not an accident and can be attributed to all the clever marketing of the very corporations committing the crimes to position “conflict-free” diamonds as an ethical or even a sustainable comprehensive solution. Addressing the conflict financing is only one part of the many issues the diamond industry faces and ignores: slave labor, violence, child labor, unsafe working conditions, environmental damage. These serious and urgent issues get swept under the rug or horribly oversimplified while consumers are being green washed.
Conflict-Free marketing scheme whether on purpose or on accident conceals the problematic supply chain issues for consumers, all the while providing no actual support and restitution to the communities terrorized by diamond mining past and present. It is deeply flawed that these larger systems with the power to actually do something for good developed a program that is grotesquely simple and doesn’t actually address the spectrum of issues. Conflict-Free diamonds and the Kimberly Process is just another example of how racism, white supremacy and capitalism only creates systems of destruction and huge financial profit for only a few.
There are many mining communities that heavily rely on diamond mining to put food on the table so simply boycotting diamonds is not an ethical solution. Because of diamonds’ intrinsic value in our society, diamond mining will probably continue on till the end of time whether we do it the right way or the wrong way. Developing protection for these communities to have better pay, safer work environments, and government protection from corporate monopolies would be a huge step in the right direction but so far there is nothing like that out there yet that is widely available to consumers.
Diamonds are notoriously difficult to trace because all the gemstone rough gets mixed together in giant distribution centers in places like Antwerp before it is purchased. For perfect white diamonds there are no certified options yet, but in general it is far better for the planet and people to source from ASM (artisanal small-scale mines) over giant corporations. This helps keep money in the pockets of the diamond miners instead of giant corporations that wreak havoc on communities.
Let me know what you think about the “conflict-free” diamond in the comments below!
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